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Sunday, June 23, 2024

WNBA Starts New Season As League Looks to Push Growth

  • League coming off of record viewership numbers in 2022.
  • Teams starting to find new identities, rivalries.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The WNBA season tips off this weekend — and the league is looking to capitalize on the growing interest in women’s sports from mainstream fans and media outlets.

Four games get the action started Friday night before a total of five more on Saturday and Sunday, while a new WNBA app is streaming 12 games for free during the first two weekends of the season after the league enjoyed record viewership in 2022. 

Six of the weekend’s contests will count toward the Commissioner’s Cup — the league’s season-long competition that commissioner Cathy Engelbert believes will generate more revenue for the WNBA.

The Las Vegas Aces, who won last year’s Commissioner’s Cup and an extra $30,000 per player, will be without coach Becky Hammon, who was suspended for the first two games of the season after a controversial player-mistreatment issue. The defending champions became the first team to open its own practice facility.

On Friday, Brittney Griner returns for her first Phoenix Mercury game after being freed from imprisonment in Russia, while a new star arrives in former South Carolina standout Aliyah Boston. 

Boston was selected No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever in the 2023 WNBA Draft — an edition that posted the event’s best viewership since 2004. 

The league may consider expansion after last weekend’s sellout of a preseason game in Toronto, which alleviates the WNBA’s roster problem.

Several recent high draft picks were cut during final roster decisions, including 2021 No. 1 pick Charli Collier of the Dallas Wings. WNBA teams’ 12-person roster size is becoming a point of contention for some players, with many calling for the league to expand rosters to 14 players.

“A whole league is training at home,” L.A. Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike tweeted this week.

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